MBM: Respect for all

The complaint that there aren’t enough minorities in literature is entirely valid, because you feel like you can’t ‘see’ yourself in literature that’s full of white cis able-bodied females (or males).

And a reviewer who is of the same minority represented will bring their own experiences and may see something in the literature that someone else with different experiences may not see.

I’m a reader. I have the power of imagination. Allusion. Allegory. Metaphor. In the film Chappie, the intelligent robot is physically assaulted by a bad man in a van and his arm is cut off. This scene really upsets me, not because I have also had my arm cut off but because I see it as a metaphor for sexual assault, which I have experienced. The film UP is banned in my house because the opening sequence leaves me sobbing inconsolably, but I have never grieved over infertility and lost my spouse. I have, however, known loss of some kind and I can bring my own experiences to my consuming.

I bring my own experiences to reviewing.

Just because I haven’t experienced what an author has experienced doesn’t make my experiences any less relevant.

True, I’m aware that one of the reasons I loved Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Girls is because I identified with so much of it. Barnard is a white English author and her character is a white English girl and yeah, I’m white and I lived in England.

I also loved the fuck out of Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation about a half black teen warrior in 19th century America fighting zombies, which I absolutely do not identify with in the least, but I still loved the book, thought it was amazing, and wrote a review of my experience of reading the book.
Would Dread Nation be less awesome or less relevant if Ireland were some other minority, or if she were white?

The answer to me is no. So why is my review, my voice, my experiences less relevant, respected, and wanted than the review, voice and experience of someone who is not me?

It’s not reverse racism, because that doesn’t exist. I understand the call for more diverse reviewers. But shooting down other reviewers is not the way to go.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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3 thoughts on “MBM: Respect for all

  1. Cee Arr

    I think that sometimes it’s not so much shooting down other reviewers, but rather reconciling the differences in experiences. Yes, all reviewers have imagination. But we also don’t exist in a vacuum. We come in with pre-conceived ideas and standpoints which can alter the way we think about things. That’s not bad, per se, it just means that we’re coming at it from a different angle.

    The problem in the past has been that people who aren’t part of marginalised groups often point-blank refuse to see angles that show the harm and inequality that marginalised groups experience (or worse, show marginalised people in a positive light at all.) To change this, we need more #ownvoices reviews – we need to know what marginalised people think – we can’t walk a mile in their shoes if we insist on buying a similar pair instead.

    Apart from that, non-marginalised people often find a way to control the narrative – e.g. the recent attitudes of some allocishet people to Queer opinions of Call Me By Your Name was to tell members of the Queer community that they were wrong to be made uncomfortable by it, and also wrong to support Love, Simon (or Simon vs…), despite the fact that neither of the original books were written by Queer people.

    No-ones voice should be lost. The problem is, often people who aren’t part of marginalised groups aren’t willing to make *any* room at the table for those they’re giving opinions about.

    I do think you made some interesting points though, and expressed yourself eloquently, so well done 🙂 Apologies for the epically-long comment, but I wanted to try to put my views across without sounding antagonistic, or aggressive (which I’ve hopefully managed!)

    Cee Arr recently posted: Nerd Church - The Women Who Made Me
    1. Nemo

      It’s fine Cee Arr, you did not come off as antagonistic nor aggressive. But not wanting particular reviewers because of the colour of their skin or own experiences is bad no matter whose skin colour it is.

      You’ve raised some more points I’d like to mull over and maybe write another post about.

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